When an individual senses pain, anguish and distress, or other deficiencies, he must realize that his condition reflects, as it were, an analogous condition in the celestial spheres.

The individual need or problem is just that: individual, restricted to that person, limited to one small detail in the cosmic order. On the higher plane, however, on the plane of the Shechinah sharing in that distress, it becomes a general problem.

Quite clearly that general problem is of greater significance and import than the individual problem. Hence the concept of praying for the alleviation of pain or need on the general level (tzorech gevoha). For as this is effected on the higher, comprehensive level, it will instantaneously effect total alleviation and fulfillment on the particular level as well.

Man's primary concern, therefore, should be with the general, the universal, rather than with the particular. To care but about the particular, personal need, and to disregard the universal, is egotism. It reduces the whole meaning and purpose of creation, the exercise of prayer and mitzvot, to crude self-gratification - serving G‑d for the sake of receiving compensation, like `arrogant dogs barking for their food.'

In this context, man should regard himself as ayin (naught) and forget about himself: bitul hayesh He should direct all his requests and prayers "for the sake of the Shechinah," for the sake of the whole, and not just the part. This will of itself fill the needs of the part as well.

That is, then, how the Baal Shem Tov resolved the contradiction and problem stated: One may, can, indeed must, pray for all and any needs - if for nothing else but the acknowledgment and consciousness of Divine Sovereignty and everything's total and continuous dependence on G‑d. But one must never lose perspective; one must not get carried away by transient details instead of concentrating on the whole.

Now it is much easier to discuss and understand the principle of prayer for the sake of the Shechinah than it is to practice it.

Avodah tzorech gevoha is in fact a very sublime level of spiritual achievement which is not within easy reach for everyone. For the average person it is a more idealistic goal rather than a realistic one. Personal needs are sensed on the immediate level, unlike idealistic objectives.

In the service of G‑d, who is the very essence of absolute truth, there is no place for falsehood, for pretense and hypocrisy. Thus when overcome by the anguish of personal needs and unable to rise above them, one should never pretend to pray for the sake of the! G‑d examines the heart and knows the truth. It is, therefore, better for man to be honest and to pray for himself, than the falsehood of pretending concern for the Shechinah.

At all times, more than anything else, there must be sincerity.

Prayer must reflect the precise feelings and contents of the heart, for "He who works deceit shall not dwell in My house, he who tells lies will have no place before My eyes" (Psalms 101:7).